Jordanian security forces arrest drug dealer after clash near Syrian border

North Badia region is a main drugs transit area in the Levant

Jordanian soldiers near the Jordan-Syria border on February 17. AP
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Jordanian security forces have arrested a crystal meth dealer after a gunfight in the Badia area of Syria, according to police.

Police spokesman Amer Al Sartawi said the arrest of an Arab man in an earlier drug case led them to the bust.

"A security force went to the place where the person was in the northern Badia area, and as soon as he saw the force he started firing," Mr Al Sartawi said.

"The rules of engagement were applied and he was arrested," he said, adding that the man had on him an unspecified quantity of crystal meth.

The announcement was rare in that the case involved the arrest of a non-Jordanian national. In most of the previous counter-drug operations in Jordan, authorities said that foreign nationals who were involved were either killed or fled to Syria.

Jordan's north Badia region near Syria is a main drugs transit area in the Levant, with drugs worth billions of dollars a year flowing from Lebanon and Syria through the area to Jordan and then to Saudi Arabia.

Security officials say the trafficking mainly consists of the synthetic drug Captagon, hashish from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and crystal meth, another drug that can be produced in so-called "labs", which affects the nervous system and can damage the heart.

Security forces frequently conduct raids and other operations in northern Jordan to curb the drugs trade.

The border with Syria has become the main conduit for the trade since Syrian regime forces retook the area from rebels in 2018 after a deal between Russia, the US and Israel.

Jordan says pro-Iranian militias in southern Syria and the Syrian military are behind the rise in drug smuggling over the past four years. The 2018 agreement was supposed to keep Lebanon's Hezbollah and other Iran-backed groups away from the border.

In November, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi told visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that Jordan hoped Moscow would help to maintain a “minimum stability” on its border with Syria.

He was referring to the flow of narcotics from areas controlled by President Bashar Al Assad's forces.

Russia has played a leading role in a rapprochement between Amman and Damascus, which started last year. Moscow has been urging countries across the region to normalise ties with Damascus and pay for reconstruction, although the civil war is not over.

The conflict started in 2011 with mass demonstrations against five decades of Assad family rule.

Jordan announced it was lifting restrictions on commercial exchange with Syrian regime areas in the last quarter of 2021 and resumed high-level contacts.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 6:02 AM